The Southern Poverty Law Center released its 2017: The Year in Hate and Extremism report, and the number of hate groups in Missouri went down from 24 to 18. Experts I spoke with said that the decrease in hate groups doesn’t necessarily signify a decrease in hate.
“Sometimes those numbers are just artifacts of how many groups they can uncover,” MU political science professor Peverill Squire said. “Sometimes these groups disappear, they merge, they take on new forms or identities. So I’m not sure it tells anything particularly important about Missouri.”
Karen Aroesty, the Anti-Defamation League’s regional director for Missouri, eastern Kansas and southern Illinois, agrees with Squire. She says the definitions of hate and a hate group are too general to come to conclusions based off of these statistics.
“What does it mean to hate? What does it mean to be a professional hater?” Aroesty said. “Maybe what we need to do is we need to be looking at the roots of prejudice and bias, and figuring out ways to address that early on. So someone who is inclined to become a professional hater and act on that hate doesn’t get to that point.”
The report detailed a nationwide uptick in neo-Nazi groups, but a decrease in Ku Klux Klan groups. The SPLC detailed that the group seems to have hit a wall, “unable to adapt to the modern world and the changing tactics of the radical right.”
In Missouri, KKK groups fell from 4 to 1 over 2017, while neo-Nazi organizations rose from 2 to 3. The SPLC defines a group as “an entity that has a process through which followers identify themselves as being part of the group,” and says organizations on its hate group list “vilify others because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.”